You Make a Mess…

you clean it up. That’s the rule in our house. It’s the rule at Eve and Lola’s school, and the rule at most workplaces I know. You dirty up some dishes in the lunchroom? Wash them, dry them and put them away. No reason anyone else ought to be doing your dishes. It’s a respect thing.

I get that sometimes accidents happen. I’ve seen Lola trying to maneuver a container of yogurt out of the fridge from behind that enormous jar of pickles, only to bump the jar and have the pickles and pickle juice cascade all down the front of the refrigerator shelves and onto the floor. What generally happens in that instance is that someone comes to help her clean it up. But nobody does it for her.
More importantly, though, when it is a purposeful activity that leads to a mess – say Eve’s got a hankering to bake cookies on a rainy Sunday afternoon – she’s responsible for cleaning it up. If she needs help she can always ask.
If Lola gets aggravated at her sister for calling her a name or treating her disrespectfully and decides to dump her entire load of clean, folded laundry over the railing onto the hardwood floor below it is Lola’s job to pick up the clothes, refold them and put the basket back in front of Eve’s door.
Why is it that we hold ourselves to a higher standard than we hold our world leaders? It’s a basic premise: You make a mess, you clean it up.

Last Thursday I was listening to NPR as they featured an interview with the man responsible for starting and maintaining the landmine museum in Afghanistan. Seems like an odd theme for a museum, I know, but his purpose is to bring awareness to the enormity of the problem with landmines in this war-fatigued country. I was astonished to learn that there are an estimated TEN MILLION LAND MINES IN AFGHANISTAN. Yes, you read that correctly. And I looked it up again to make sure I heard it correctly.

A huge majority of these mines are left over from the war between the former USSR and Afghanistan. You know, the one that ended in 1988. The mine of choice for this particular ten-year war is very benignly known as a “butterfly” mine. Turns out they actually look like butterflies and were designed this way so that they could be dropped via air and gently flutter to the ground without exploding. They only explode on contact with an animal or human being. Now, can you think of a human being that might be intrigued by a hand-sized object that resembles a butterfly? A child, perhaps? And can you imagine how many children have lost limbs and eyes and THEIR LIVES by picking up these land mines that have been in Afghanistan for the last 30 years or so?

Land mines litter the landscape of Afghanistan. They are on the land that is used to graze animals, paths to and from towns, and on school property. The incidence of land mines in Afghanistan has resulted in the depopulation of entire swaths of the country because people are unwilling to take the chance that they might come across one in their daily lives. And yet, the proprietor of this land mine museum still encounters children who actively seek out these mines in order to gather the scrap metal to make a little money for their families. Because their families have lost livestock to mines or they have been forced to give up growing crops that could sustain them because their land is too dangerous to work.

Ignoring the larger question of whether or not it is even morally defensible to use land mines as an offensive tactic, when a war is over, I think it is not unreasonable to expect the country that placed them to go in and clean up the land mines. Finding and disarming these deadly weapons is expensive and time consuming, but I think if you’re willing to use them to target civilians (and don’t tell me that this isn’t what the the USSR and the Taliban were/are doing by placing mines in these particular areas), you ought to be willing to go pick up your mess when you’ve made your point. The fact that you can declare that a war is over and walk away knowing that generations of innocent civilians continue to be placed in harm’s way as a direct result of your actions during wartime seems a little too easy.

It would seem to me that the countries who use land mines as a way to wage war ought to know in advance that they will be held responsible for all of the fallout from that decision. Not all is fair in war, and I believe that leaving a country riddled with land mines constitutes a war crime.
0 replies
  1. Brynne
    Brynne says:

    Great post. We need to be thinking about these kinds of things. I wonder how many land mines are still in Vietnam. Sometimes I dont think most people realize how lucky we are to not have a history of war within our borders.

  2. Dee Ready
    Dee Ready says:

    Dear Kario, Your anger here is apparent and also your great good sense. I remember that before she died, Princess Di was crusading against land mines.

    The use of the home analogy–we clean up our own mess–makes so much sense here. And you are right–this is a war crime. Why doesn't it go to the World Court?


  3. fishducky
    fishducky says:

    You are SO right–when a war is declared over, IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE OVER! I agree with Dee's comment about the World Court.

    B. WHITTINGTON says:

    I had no idea the number of landmines in Afghanistan.
    How terrible. I agreed with you. Those responsible need to clean up their messes. But will they ever? I remember Lady Diana pushing for help for the children who had lost limbs due to the land mines. Horrible.
    Our world seems to be needing a complete make over.
    Bless you for sharing this.

  5. Karen Fisher-Alaniz
    Karen Fisher-Alaniz says:

    A few years ago, I read that more than 100,000 people in Vietnam have either been injured or died because of land mines SINCE the end of the war.

    War is terrible and it's never really over. It's not like a board game where one side can say, "I quit" and walk away. The country as well as the hearts and minds of all involved are forever under siege.

    I'm with you on this one! ~Karen

  6. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    I also remember that it was the US who armed the Afghanis (who later became the Taliban) to fight against the Soviets.

    It's all completely insane. All of it.

  7. Sandi
    Sandi says:

    Well written and painful to read. I wasn't aware of the extent of the land mines laying around. It's unbelievable and irresponsible. There ought to be a law . . . although, why do we need laws for things that people should just do simply because it is the right thing to do!??

  8. Dee Ready
    Dee Ready says:

    Dear Kario.

    Thanks so much for commenting on my Tuesday posting about the convent haircut. The assistant novice mistress, I think, was trying to put into perspective for me just what the vow of obedience would mean.

    Your conclusiong–Guess it just goes to show we are all human, no matter what we wear or choose as our vocation–is accurate.

    Women who enter the convent are just regular human beings who feel a call to dedicate their lives in a certain way. We all have calls and all of us are flawed and also all of us are gifted. Or so I have come to believe.

  9. Dee Ready
    Dee Ready says:

    Dear Kari, again I want to thank you for commenting so reflectively on my Thursday's posting about using the floor polisher in the convent.

    Thinking of your posting on the land minds, I can't help but wonder about the use of a polisher by the men who decide on war. Do you think that if they polished for a half hour before making any militaristic decisions, we'd have peace in our world?

    I wonder just how jangled their thoughts are some times.


  10. graceonline
    graceonline says:

    Yes, Kario, and if you initiated a petition to that effect on, I think it would get a lot of attention.

    Btw, did you know that a GOP candidate suggested putting land mines along the US/Mexico border? As if a wall and barbed wire weren't bad enough. His name is Tom Mullins, running for Congress in New Mexico.


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